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  • Cancún: Whether or not you believe Cancún is an unrelenting spring break party in which Americans compete with Mexicans for the city's real identity -- and I'd say the truth lies in the timing of your visit -- you're likely to agree this man-made resort has some of the most spectacular beaches in the country. The powdery white sand is complemented by warm Caribbean waters the color of a Technicolor dream; it's so clear that you can see through to the coral reefs below. You can come here just to relax, but this is of course also one of the world's most popular entertainment destinations. Cancún offers Mexico's widest selection of beachfront resorts, with more restaurants, nightlife, and activities than any other resort destination in the country.
  • Isla Mujeres: If uninterrupted relaxation is what you're after, Isla Mujeres offers a quintessential laid-back vacation. Most accommodations are small, inexpensive inns, with a few luxury boutique hotels tempting you for at least a night. Bike -- or take a golf cart -- around the island to explore rocky coves and sandy beaches, or focus your tanning efforts on the wide beachfront of Playa Norte. Here you'll find calm waters perfect for swimming and snorkeling as well as beachfront palapa restaurants beckoning you for a fresh fish lunch. If island fever starts to take over, you're only a ferry ride away from the action in Cancún.
  • Cozumel: It may not offer lots of big, sandy beaches, but Cozumel promises something the mainland doesn't: the calm, flat waters of the sheltered western shore. It's so calm that it could be mistaken for a giant swimming pool, only this pool has lots of brilliantly colored fish, so take your snorkeling mask even if you don't plan to do any diving, which, in Cozumel, is among the best in the world.
  • Playa del Carmen: Stylish and hip, Playa del Carmen has a beautiful beach and an eclectic assortment of small hotels, inns, and cabañas. The social scene focuses on the beach by day and the pedestrian-only Quinta Avenida (Fifth Avenue) by night, with its assortment of restaurants, clubs, sidewalk cafes, and shops offering all the entertainment you could want. You're also close to the coast's major attractions, including nature parks, ruins, and cenotes (sinkholes or natural wells). Fast-growing Playa is becoming homogenized (think Dairy Queen and Starbucks). Enjoy it while it's still a manageable size.
  • Tulum: Fronting some of the best beaches on the entire coast, Tulum's small hotels offer guests a little slice of paradise far from the crowds and megaresorts. The bustling town lies inland; at the coast, activities and partying compete with swinging in a hammock and doing absolutely nothing. If you can pull yourself away from the beach, there are ruins to marvel at and a vast nature preserve to explore.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.